Blog tour review – The Secret By The Lake by Louise Douglas

By | November 28, 2015

Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen. 

Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?

I’m so delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Secret By The Lake by Louise Douglas, and I’m going to unashamedly repeat a lot of what I said when I told you how much I loved her last book, Your Beautiful Lies. In fact, I’ll hold my hands up and admit it – I think Louise Douglas’ writing is simply wonderful. This is her sixth novel since she first appeared with The Love of my Life back in 2009 – it was long-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and thoroughly deserved its nomination. 

Since then, she’s shown an immense ability to reinvent herself with every book.  Her second, the heart-breaking Missing You, won the RNA Readers’ Choice Award: her third, The Secrets Between Us, a highly accomplished thriller and love story strongly reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (and, I think, my favourite of them all to date) was a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read.  In Her Shadow, I’ll admit, didn’t quite work for me… but I did love Your Beautiful Lies, and reviewed it here on Being Anne. 

But I really think this one – The Secret By The Lake, published by Black Swan on 19th November – is the very best yet. I was absolutely mesmerised from the moment I picked it up to the very last line.

I’ll admit that I’m not usually keen on ghost stories – it’s the curse of an over-active imagination I think, the fact that they disturb me so much and keep me awake at night. Although it’s partly fair to call this a ghost story, I think I’d prefer to call it simply haunting – as things began to go bump in the night I simply couldn’t stop reading because it was such a wonderful story, a slowly unfolding mystery that I found absolutely mesmerising. 

The setting and the vivid descriptions were quite superb – the neglected cottage where Julia and her daughter Viviane were forced to live after the death of Julia’s husband Alain, joined by Amy their former nursemaid, companion and friend; the brooding presence of the lake with its changing faces and hidden depths and dangers. 

The story is told by Amy in a strong, clear voice – and she’s immensely likeable, a rational presence seeking to find an explanation for the strangeness that surrounds them. It’s a story full of tension, suffused with immense sadness and injustice, set in a community that likes to keep its secrets. And as the truth emerges around the life and death of Julia’s sister Caroline, it’s a quite enthralling story – a story of evil and depravity, full of surprises and unexpected discoveries, with a level of tension that cranks up until you can barely stand it, and a totally heart-stopping finale. 

Louise Douglas is a quite magnificent story teller – the whole story is quite perfectly paced, maintaining a perfect balance between the unexplained and inexplicable and the emerging uncomfortable truth. It’s also heartbreakingly sad – Julia’s total desolation at her husband’s death is something you feel at your core, and Amy’s desperate attempts to help her and her daughter move on makes you ache inside at the injustice of it all. The atmosphere the author creates is quite exceptional – it’s absolutely impossible to tear yourself away. This was a quite wonderful read – I absolutely loved it.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Black Swan/Transworld for my advance reading e-copy, and to Kim Nash for organising the tour.

Louise Douglas was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, but moved to Somerset when she was 18 and has stayed there ever since. She has three beautiful sons, and lives with her husband, Kevin, who works in construction.  Louise still has her day job with aircraft manufacturer Airbus. She works with some brilliant people and is passionate about aviation, engineering and sustainability. She continues to write her fiction in the evenings and sometimes through the night. In her spare time, Louise enjoys being with her family and friends, reading and walking. She goes out into the Mendips as often as possible with the family’s dogs Lil, and newer addition, Lola. There are rather a lot of pictures of the puppy on Facebook.